Just before Lockdown 2.0 shuttered retail once again, a new fragrance store opened in Powerscourt Townhouse. We spoke to Cloon Keen’s Margaret Mangan about Dublin’s new fragrant destination …
Galway Company Cloon Keen may be small, but it’s one of Ireland’s finest success stories. Founders Margaret Mangan and Julian Checkley have taken uniquely Irish ideas and stories and, like alchemists, turned them into scents with an international appeal. Cloon Keen is known for its candles, from Antique Library, inspired by the Long Room in the library at Trinity College, to the most evocative winter candle, Noble Fir. And it is the first Irish company to win at the prestigious Fragrance Foundation Awards, taking home Best New Independent Fragrance for Róisín Dubh (“little black rose”).
So we were delighted when Mangan and Checkley announced they were to open their first Dublin store in October. “Since we opened our shop in Galway, we always had the idea of a Dublin store at the back of our minds,” says Mangan. They’ve come a long way from starting the business 20 years ago in her parents’ garage in Galway, and first shop in 2002. “Our Galway shop has a strong sense of place and history with its medieval archway that opens onto a cobblestoned street leading down to Galway Bay,” says Mangan. “The streets are alive with Irish music and language. I love that when I open my door in the morning, I can see the history and culture that informs and enriches our collection. Our interior is a palimpsest of Galway history, with ancient stonework set against lime-washed walls. We aimed to create a gentle experience for visitors so that they felt cosseted and transported to a different place and time.”
It was important for Mangan to find the right Dublin location, too. “And we couldn’t have asked for a better piece of Dublin history and culture than our new home in Powerscourt Townhouse,” she says; the new interior will have “the same appreciation of craftsmanly detail, with swooping curves and soft reflected lighting. Again, we wanted to build a cocoon so that our customers feel they are being whisked away for a brief moment from the bustle of the Dublin streets.”
Do Dublin tastes differ from Galway? “We find that many of our Dublin customers go for fresher, citrussy scents like Lúnasa or Lá Bealtaine while Galwegians like them woody and warm, like Sybarite or Róisín Dubh.”
Cloon Keen regularly collaborates with perfumer Meabh McCurtin, originally from Clare and currently working at top fragrance house IFF in New York. McCurtin’s creations include Róisín Dubh (one of my favourite perfumes ever, with inky dark rose and rich patchouli: when Killing Eve’s Villanelle declared “I want to smell powerful”, this is what came to mind) and the Étaín candle, a subtle take on jasmine and creamy tuberose. I find McCurtin’s scents supremely elegant, feminine yet unshowy, with a complexity and depth. And more original than anything on the high street right now.
Look out for a new bodycare range: “It was important that we used tenets of green chemistry so the formulations are a bit more challenging but hopefully they’ll be worth the wait.” The shop will also feature Checkley’s sculpture and paintings, and they are working with a Dublin bronze foundry to create special candle snuffers. They plan to introduce other artisan items, too: “We want to gradually expand the boundaries of Cloon Keen and invite our customers to bring a little bit of our world into theirs.”
Cloon Keen will reopen in line with Government guidelines from December 1.
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